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Cognitive Ability, Lifelong Learning, and Social Mobility in Britain: Do Further Qualifications Provide Second Chances for Bright People from Disadvantaged Backgrounds?

Abstract : There is evidence to show that, even among individuals who have relatively high levels of cognitive ability, coming from disadvantaged social origins hinders their chances of securing high levels of qualification and advantaged labour market positions. But it has been argued that lifelong learning could provide second chances for these people through providing an alternative route to high qualifications. The main objective of this article is to examine this issue. We pose two questions. Does further education enable individuals from disadvantaged origins but with a high level of cognitive ability to improve on their initial levels of qualification? And does any such improvement then lead to better labour market positions, in terms of social class, for these individuals? Based on the complete qualification histories of individuals in the 1970 British Birth Cohort Study, our analyses show that men and women from disadvantaged origins, especially if of high ability, are indeed able to raise their levels of qualification, but they do so mainly via the attainment of further vocational, rather than further academic, qualifications. And while our results also indicate that acquiring further academic qualifications does improve the upward mobility chances of people of high ability from disadvantaged backgrounds, a similar effect does not show up from acquiring further vocational qualifications. In addition, we find that there remains a substantial ‘direct effect’ of cognitive ability on class attainment. This suggests that obtaining further academic qualifications is only one channel for upward mobility and that there are others which are more directly related to ability.
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https://hal-sciencespo.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-03699477
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Submitted on : Monday, June 20, 2022 - 11:44:29 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, November 10, 2022 - 7:02:50 PM

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Erzsébet Bukodi, Mollie Bourne, Bastian Betthäuser. Cognitive Ability, Lifelong Learning, and Social Mobility in Britain: Do Further Qualifications Provide Second Chances for Bright People from Disadvantaged Backgrounds?. European Sociological Review, 2019, 35 (1), pp.49-64. ⟨10.1093/esr/jcy047⟩. ⟨hal-03699477⟩

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